Now that fellow northwestern scruffs Elbow have bagged themselves the Mercury and been elevated to the status of much-loved elder statesmen, there’s a serious case to be made for Doves being the most underrated British band of their generation. We’ve been taking them for granted for almost a decade now, allowing them to go about their business in typically stoic, unglamorous fashion, somehow letting it slip our minds that, since their 2000 debut ‘Lost Souls’, each subsequent album they’ve come back with has been more evocative and gloriously cinematic than the last.
Without wishing to labour the point, consider this: when Franz Ferdinand took three years to complete their new album, they were bedevilled by rumours about the difficulty of its creation, while hardly an eyebrow has been raised at the four years Jimi Goodwin and co have been absent from the musical landscape.
That said, it’s not like they make it easy on themselves, what with tonight being only their fourth gig since 2005. They open with ‘Jetstream’, the curtain-raiser from new album ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ and a lush, melodic wave of eerie krautrock that’s audibly inspired by Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack. Yet it’s not until the grand arabesque strings of ‘Snowden’ gallop into life that we realise just how we’ve missed them.
Epic has always come naturally to Doves, be it Goodwin’s familiar voice echoing out like a big, sonorous beacon in the darkness on ‘Rise’, or the Pink Floyd-y, pill-eyed atmospherics of ‘10.03’. It’s the surfeit of truly great singles that impresses most, though – from the chiming urban soul of ‘Black And White Town’ to the relentless melodic spiral of ‘Pounding’ and the masterpeice that is ‘There Goes The Fear’. In fact their copybook is blotted only slightly by the meandering title track of the new album, which slows things to a crawl just as the audience is anticipating a climax.
These, however, are minor grumbles. The new album is a grower. You won’t notice its charms creep up on you, but when they do, they’re difficult to resist. It would be nice, though, if we didn’t need to remind ourselves in another four years of just how bloody good they are.